Types of Aquarium Moss & More | The Ultimate Guide


When new people enter the aquarium hobby, they think about what type of fish they want. They may even consider tank size and type of tank: freshwater or saltwater. One crucial factor that is traditionally overlooked by most beginning aquarists is Moss. It’s not just beginning aquarists that overlook and underappreciate Moss; sometimes, even the most experienced Aquarists can. Aquarium moss has the potential to take your tank from a traditional, somewhat boring tank to a living, breathing ecosystem. You’ve come to the right place if you want to take your next tank to the next level. We’ll help you learn more about Aquarium Moss, all the different types, and just what they can do for your tank.

What is an Aquarium Moss?

Aquarium Moss is the easiest way to add a bit of life to your tank. They are extremely popular for aquascaping. There are many different types of Aquarium Moss traditionally used in tanks, each of which has its own specific uses and needs. Most types of aquarium moss will be tied or glued to a piece of rock, or driftwood, which they will eventually grow over. Various kinds of Aquarium moss can even be used to create a moss wall in tanks. Aquarium Moss isn’t very demanding for the most part, but they do need to be placed with intent in their tanks. Most Aquarium Moss is slow-growing, but if you give it the proper care it requires, you should have no issue with it eventually becoming a beautiful addition to your tank.

Is Aquarium Moss Good for Aquariums?

Aquarium Moss is popular not only for its versatility and gorgeous looks, but they are also great for your tank. Most types of Aquarium Moss have thick leaves or stems. That dense foliage creates a perfect hiding spot for some smaller fish species, such as shrimp or certain fry. Aquarium Moss is also the ideal breeding ground for microorganisms. Microorganisms are traditionally used as food for some smaller species, especially small species of shrimp. One of the most important features of Aquarium Moss isn’t its beauty, but actually something more practical. Aquarium Moss creates a bacteria that fights pollutants and gives off nitrogen, which significantly helps increase the water quality.

Aquarium Moss
There are many types of aquarium moss.

Aquarium Moss Types

There are several different types of Aquarium Moss; each type has its preferred tank requirements and needs. Java moss is one of the most popular types of Aquarium; we will cover it in detail and give you a quick overview of what you need to know about it. But Java Moss isn’t the only Aquarium Moss we will cover. We will go in-depth with several different types of Moss, such as Christmas Moss, Weeping Moss, Flame Moss, Peacock Moss, Willow Moss, Pheonix Moss, as well as several others. If you’re curious about any species of Aquarium Moss, then you’ve come to the right place. Continue reading for all the information that you need to know to make an informed choice and find the perfect Moss for your tank.

Java Moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)

Java Moss
Java Moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)

Java Moss is the most popular species of Aquarium Moss, which means that it is the Moss that most aquarists have experience with. Its popularity is because it is incredibly hardy and doesn’t have very intense water requirements. Java Moss is endemic to Southeast Asia, where it is very common, usually found on river banks, tree trunks, and rocks. One of the reasons that Java Moss is so prevalent in the aquarium hobby is because its temperature and pH requirements are vast. Java Moss can survive in temperatures between 59 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the most fantastic things about Java Moss is that it grows differently depending on whether it is high or low light. When grown in low light, Java Moss will be a darker color and have more slender and spread limbs. Java Moss grown in bright environments will be denser than their low light brothers. One of the most significant issues that can arise with Java moss is uncontrolled growth. If it is not pruned regularly, it will take over your tank. Java Moss can easily clog filters, as well as suffocate itself. If you plan to add Java Moss to your tank, ensure you give it the care it deserves.

Christmas moss (Vesicularia montagnei)

Christmas Moss
Christmas Moss

Many aquarists consider Christmas Moss a great alternative to Java Moss. Christmas Moss tends to grow faster than Java Moss and is denser. Just like Java Moss, Christmas Moss is endemic to Southeast Asia. Although it is an excellent alternative to Java Moss, Christmas Moss requires more precise water parameters. Christmas Moss needs to be grown in a tank that stays within 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH level range is similarly small; they need it to be between 5.0 and 7.5. Some aquarists have difficulty attaching Christmas Moss in their tanks. There are several different options to consider. Most will tend to use super glue to attach the Christmas Moss to a rock or driftwood. Superglue is the most hassle-free way to attach Christmas Moss, but it is not the only way. You can use thread or fishing line to anchor to Christmas to whatever you want it to grow around. The biggest issue with using thread or fishing line to anchor the Moss is that the movement of the water could easily cause it to move or detach from what it’s anchored to. Christmas Moss is an excellent option for any tank, and with enough perseverance, it can be an eye-catching addition to your tank.

Weeping Moss (Vesicularia Ferriei)

Weeping Moss (Vesicularia Ferriei)
Weeping Moss by Carnat Joel (CC BY 2.0).

Weeping Moss is very hardy, and because of that, it can grow in a wide variety of lighting and water conditions. It can be found across both Asia and Europe but is endemic to China. Unlike some other species of Aquarium Moss, Weeping Moss doesn’t have roots. That means that it can not be planted in the substrate; it needs to be secured to something else in the tank. The most defining characteristic of Weeping Moss is that it grows at a sloping, downwards angle. Weeping Moss can thrive in temperatures between 60 to 85 degrees. Their pH requirements are between 5.0 to 6.0. Lighting can be an issue for some species of Aquarium Moss, but that is not the case with Weeping Moss. Weeping Moss can survive in nearly any light, although they will grow faster in moderate light. Once the Weeping Moss begins to grow, you can trim the ends to help promote new growth. Weeping Moss is also easy to propagate if you trim and divide the plant. Weeping Moss may be perfect if you’re looking for a unique plant to add to your tank. Its unique way of growing will quickly make Weeping Moss a striking addition to your tank.

Peacock moss (Taxiphyllum sp. ‘Peacock’)

peacock moss
Peacock Moss

Peacock Moss is quickly becoming more popular in the aquarium hobby. The name Peacock Moss comes from the fact then when it is grown, its fronds resemble the feathers of a peacock. Peacock Moss is strikingly similar to Java Moss, and the two types are commonly mistaken for one another. They are both similarly easy to care for and have somewhat similar requirements. Peacock Moss can survive in colder temperatures than some other Aquarium Moss. It prefers to grow in temperatures between 65 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower the temperature, the better; if the temperature gets too high, the Peacock Moss will begin to lose its iconic namesake – the fronds that invoke a peacock. Peacock Moss also needs the pH level of its tank to be between 5.0 and 7.5. There are two different species of Aquarium Moss known as Peacock Moss, Taxiphyllum sp. ‘Peacock” and Selaginella Uncinata. Telling the two similar species apart from one another isn’t too tricky. Selaginella Uncinata has a slightly more blue and green coloring than Taxiphyllum sp. ‘Peacock, which is a deeper green color.

Flame moss (Taxiphyllum sp. ‘Flame’)

Flame Moss
Flame Moss. Blikss, CC BY 2.0.

Flame Moss is endemic to river banks in Southern Asia, where it grows in separate bushes. It has gained popularity in recent years due to its unique look. Flame Moss has long, green shoots that grow upwards. When these shoots begin to bundle together and move in the slight water current, it looks like a green underwater, hence the name Flame Moss. Flame Moss only grows about 4 inches tall, but that is long enough to give it a unique and captivating look. The temperature and pH requirements of Flame Moss are broad enough to provide you with a wide berth when it comes to tank setup. The pH range for a tank that houses Flame Moss is between 6.0 and 7.5. Flame Moss requires its tank’s temperate to fall in the range of 68 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit. Intense lighting is not recommended for Flame Moss. If Flame Moss is exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time, it’ll dry out and die. That means you need to make sure it is not in direct sunlight and away from any light that produces UV. If you need lights, it is recommended to use dimmer lights that emulate a cloudy day.

Willow moss (Fontinalis antipyretica)

Willow Moss (Fontinalis antipyretica) Growing in Nordic River

Willow Moss is also known as Common Water Moss, Greater Water Moss, and Antifever Fontinalis Moss. Originally thought to be native to North America, Willow Moss can now be found worldwide in such places as Africa, Europe, and Asia. Willow Moss can usually be found in fast-moving rivers, streams, and springs. Willow Moss looks a bit like Java Moss, but the Willow Moss is much larger, reaching a high of around 24 inches tall. Willow Moss has thicker branches than Java Moss and much longer leaves. A fact worth mentioning is that Willow Moss can survive in waters that are much colder than other types of Aquarium Moss can survive in. Willow Moss can survive in temperatures between 59 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. While temperature isn’t very important for Willow Moss, pH level is. The necessary pH level for a tank that houses a Willow Moss is between 5.5 to 7.5. The riverbeds that Willow Moss calls home are used to a varying amount of light. This means that Willow Moss can survive in various amounts of lighting, but they prefer lower lights.

Phoenix Moss (Fissidens fontanus)

Phoenix Moss (Fissidens Fontanus)
Phoenix Moss (Fissidens Fontanus)

Phoenix Moss, also known as Water Pocket Moss, US Fissdens, and Palm Moss, is endemic to North America, where it can usually be found growing deep in lakes. Phoenix Moss is known for its lush, fluffy, green appearance. That striking appearance is quickly making Phoenix Moss extremely popular in both the aquarium and aquascaping hobbies. You want to make sure your Phoenix Moss is not placed directly in sunlight or under any UV lights. Phoenix Moss doesn’t do well in harsh lights; the lights will cause it to dry out and die. UV lights and sunlight may also have an adverse effect on the water, causing its temperature to rise. Temperature is an essential parameter to measure in any tank setting, especially a tank that houses a Phoenix Moss. Phoenix Moss can’t survive in high temperatures; they need the temperature of their tank to stay within the range of 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. pH level is equally important as temperature for most tanks. The pH level of a Phoenix Moss tank should be between 6.0 and 8.0.

Taiwan Moss (Taxiphyllum alternans)

Taiwan Moss (Taxiphyllum Alternans)
Taiwan Moss (Taxiphyllum Alternans). Carnat Joel, CC BY 2.0

Taiwan Moss isn’t the most popular species of Aquarium Moss. It is a more recent entry to the aquarium hobby, so not much is known yet about Taiwan Moss. We do know that it is endemic to Eastern Asia and Southeast North America. It can be found in subtropical climates, usually in lakes, waterfalls, streams, and riverbanks. Taiwan Moss has a slightly more bushy appearance than some of its relatives; it will also root itself onto whatever surface it is growing on. Lighting is something to consider when adding Taiwan Moss to your tank. Taiwan Moss can survive in low and medium amounts of light; its coloring and growth rate will suffer. The Taiwan Moss will reach its full potential if placed under adequate light. Besides lighting, several other tank parameters need to be carefully considered, such as pH level and temperature. Taiwan Moss doesn’t have very precise temperature requirements. It would be best to aim for a temperature between 53 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. pH level is the same way, it doesn’t need to be exact, but it does need to fall between 5.0 to 8.0. Taiwan Moss also likes a strong water flow, so ensure your filter is powerful enough to provide that.

Crystalwort (Riccia fluitans)

Riccia Fluitans
Riccia Fluitans

Crystalwort, also known as Floating Crystalwort, is a gorgeous plant that is traditionally used as a carpet or floating plant. Crystalwort is native to Asia, Africa, and both North and South America. In those locations, it is traditionally found floating. Crystalwort was always thought to only be able to survive floating until famed Aqauascaper Takashi Amano used it submerged in one of his tanks. Interestingly, only the Japanese variant of Crystalwort can survive submerged. Crystalwort is a fast grower and is usually a free-floating plant, but you can, in fact, anchor it to something that will not affect its growth. The rapid growth of Crystalwort means that if it is not trimmed regularly, it can easily overgrow the surface of your tank. Because Crystalwort is a floating plant, fast-moving waters can cause it to break up. Crystalwort isn’t a very picky plant, which means it can survive in various conditions. The biggest concern when establishing a tank for Crystalwort is lighting. If you plan on having floating Crystalwort, it can survive in low light levels. But if you have your Crystalwort submerged, you will need to accommodate it with more light. The temperature range of a Crystalwort tank needs to be between 59 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH level should be between 6.0 to 8.0.

Coral Moss (Riccardia Chamedryfolia)

Coral Moss (Riccardia Chamedryfolia)
Coral Moss (Riccardia Chamedryfolia). Edited. BerndH, CC BY-SA 3.0

Endemic to Southeast Asia, Coral Moss, or Mini Pellia, is a rare but beautiful species of Aquarium Moss. Coral Moss grows slowly, but once it begins to grow, it will form round pads on the substrate of your tank. It can also easily be attached to any rocks or driftwood that you wish, just by using glue or anchoring it with a fishing line. Coral Moss needs more light than most other species of aquarium moss, so be sure to accommodate its needs so that it grows properly. Coral Moss has tighter temperature requirements than other moss. The temperature of a Coral Moss tank should be between 65 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. pH level also needs to be monitored carefully; it should be within 5.0 to 7.5. If you need a place for shrimp and some fish fry to hide in, Coral Moss is a great choice. Coral Moss is an excellent alternative to Java Moss if you want something a bit more unique and exciting.

Subwassertang (Lomariopsis Lineata)

Subwassertang
Subwassertang (Lomariopsis Lineata)

Subwassertang is still new to the aquarium hobby. It was first discovered just a few years ago, in the early 2000s, by a German botanist named Christel Kasselman. Because of how recently it was found, not much is yet known about Subwassertang.  What we do know is that it is a bushy green plant that somewhat resembles seaweed. Subwassertang is beneficial for a tank for a number of reasons. It’s a great food source for certain shrimp. It can also act as a hiding place for some shy fish, fry, or shrimp. Since it performs photosynthesis, Subwassertang helps the water in your tank rich in oxygen. The temperature of a tank that includes Subwassertang should be between 68 degrees and 86 degrees Fahrenheit, but it does prefer the lower end of that range. pH isn’t as important, but it should stay in the range of 5.5 to 7.5.

Marimo Moss Ball (Aegagropila linnaei)

Marimo Moss Ball (Aegagropila linnaei)
Marimo Moss Ball (Aegagropila linnaei)

Marimo Moss Balls are very unique because they form naturally into a ball shape without any human interference. They are very rare and can only be found in a few lakes worldwide. The lakes that Marimo Moss Balls can be found in are in Estonia, Scotland, Iceland, Ireland, and Japan. Marimo Moss Balls are very popular in Japan, where they are revered as good luck charms. Some Marimo Moss Balls have been known to live for over 200 years and are passed down as family heirlooms in Japan. They are sometimes considered to be a symbol of a close bond. Marimo Moss balls are so easy to care for that they are sometimes given to children to keep as a pet. Marimo Moss Balls will tend to do better in colder waters because that is the type of waters they natively grow. Brown spots appearing on Marimo Moss Balls are likely to be caused by too high water temperature. Marimo Moss Balls have no unique lighting requirements; they grow at the bottom of lakes In nature, so regular household lights should be sufficient for them.

Best Aquarium Moss

So, you want to add Aquarium Moss to your tank, but you’re not sure where to start. The first question you need to ask yourself is what you wish the Aquarium Moss to do. Certain Moss is better at certain things. You’d likely want to use a different type of Aquarium Moss if you wanted to create a wall instead of a carpet.

What is the Best Overall Aquarium Moss?

Java Moss is the best overall Aquarium Moss for most aquariums. This is because Java Moss is very hardy and easy to grow. Java Moss is so easy to care for that it is nearly impossible to kill. It can survive in a wide range of pH and temperature conditions. Java Moss is the perfect addition to any tank.

What is the Best Aquarium Moss Creating a Wall?

If you want to create a wall of Aquarium Moss in your tank, Weeping Moss is your best choice. Weeping Moss is a fantasic choice for a wall because of the angle it grows at. Many aquarists use Weeping Moss to add a bit of color and life to their tanks.

What is the Best Aquarium Moss Creating a Carpet?

If you wish to create an aquarium moss carpet, the best type of aquarium moss is Christmas Moss. This is because they tend to grow low and compact. Compared to other types of aquarium moss, Christmas Moss will allow you to easily create a dense mat.

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